Making the Bacon: How a Beloved Product is Made
Your tantalizing fragrance,
Wafts over me,
Igniting my senses.
Your siren call lures me,
And I am powerless to resist.
On Valentine’s Day, people’s thoughts turn to love. And in the food world, few foods are as beloved as American-style streaky bacon. But not all bacon is created equal and in this post we’ll give you an idea why. As promised in our burger post, we’re going behind the scenes with TuckShop Kitchen to find out how they make their bacon so delicious. The first stop when making bacon…
A little love for all
To begin the process of making bacon, TuckShop Kitchen sources high-quality whole pork belly. American-style streaky bacon is made from the pork belly, which is the fattiest (yet possibly the tastiest!) part of the animal. This is why alternating strips of meat and fat are found on each piece of bacon.
Each piece of pork belly is weighed so that the correct amount of cure can be applied to each piece. This precision is a key component to making TuckShop’s bacon go from “good” to “OMG SO GOOD!”. TuckShop produces a lot of bacon, sometimes upwards of 100 pounds of bacon in a single week.
When you’re making such large quantities of bacon, many producers take a short-cut by curing the bacon en masse. However, when you cure bacon en masse, you can be left with either too much or too little cure on each piece. Curing in smaller batches allows for more consistency in flavour and cure on each piece of bacon.
What’s a cure?
Curing the bacon is the process which adds flavour and preserves the meat. There are two methods, wet cures and dry cures:
- Wet cure – submerging the raw pork belly into some form of brine (water + salt + spice mix)
- Dry cure – a spice mix which is rubbed onto the raw meat
If you’ve ever wondered why your bacon shrinks down so much while cooking, it’s likely because you’ve purchased wet-cured bacon. Many supermarket brands use a wet cure because it’s an easier process – simply make a big vat of brine and toss in your raw pork bellies to cure.
Pro-tip: One of the best ways to try TuckShop Kitchen’s house bacon is their BLT sandwich. The bacon is thick cut and cut into squares to ensure you have bacon-in-every-bite.
Dry curing bacon is a more involved process because you’re rubbing the cure into each piece of pork belly. Although this method requires more effort, TuckShop Kitchen uses the dry cure method because it results in better texture for the bacon, and rubbing the dry cure into the meat also allows the spices to infuse deeper, resulting in better flavour. Once the dry cure is portioned based on the weight of each piece of pork belly and rubbed all over the meat, the pork belly pieces are individually bagged.
Good things come to those who wait.
After the pork belly pieces are bagged, they cure for one week in the fridge. During that time, the salt curedraws out some of the moisture of the pork belly, resulting in the fat becoming firmer and more textured. Unlike a wet cure, which adds additional liquid to the pork belly, a dry cure removes liquid (which is what you want to do when making crispy bacon). This extra time also allows the cure to work its way through the meat, adding additional flavour.
During its time in the fridge, the bagged pork belly is rotated daily so that each piece cures evenly. After a week, the pork belly is rinsed off and left to air dry for about 24 hours. Air drying is an important part of the process when making bacon; it allows a layer of protein to develop on the surface of the bacon which seals in moisture, prevents the fat from spoiling, and allows smoke particles to cling to the meat more effectively.
Smoking the meat for three hours is the final step of TuckShop Kitchen’s process of making bacon. The meat is then thick cut to give more meat and flavour to every sandwich.
So who’s ready for some Tuck Bacon?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tess Ng is an accountant by day, writer by night, and food lover all the time.
Image Credit: “Long Live Bacon” artwork by Antonio Barroro